Gardiner’s Cody Dingwell, left, passes the ball past a Cony defender during a boys lacrosse game last season in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A year ago, the Messalonskee boys lacrosse team had a breakthrough season, reaching its first Class B championship game.

The Eagles lost 12-10 to York in the state final. And while the Eagles graduated some top talent, there’s a strong mix of returners and newcomers to show a similar season may be on the horizon.

“I think we’re looking pretty strong this year,” said Messalonskee head coach Tom Sheridan, who is entering his 29th year leading the program. “I expect us to do pretty well. It’s definitely our goal to get back to the state game. The kids have been working pretty hard in practice. We return a fair amount of kids from last year, and we’ve got some kids who are stepping up into new roles.”

Messalonskee lost some high end talent to graduation. Bryce Crowell — who was Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Large School Player of the Year, as well as a USA Lacrosse All-American — is now playing at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Will Durkee and Walter Fegel, top scorers for Messalonskee, have also graduated.

The scoring cupboard is not bare for the Eagles, however. Messalonskee returns senior Brady Brunelle, who scored more than 50 goals last season. The Eagles will also have senior Cooper LeClair, who tallied more than 40 goals a season ago.

If the Eagles wish to return to the Class B final, it won’t come easy. Messalonskee has several Class B powerhouses on the schedule, including Brunswick (twice) and Yarmouth, as well as three-time defending Class A champion Cape Elizabeth.


“We’re all about challenging ourselves and making sure we improve every day,” Sheridan said. “We don’t sit back on our laurels. We try to get better every day in practice and have a pretty high intensity level in practice every day.”

Gardiner, which finished 8-7 last year with a Class B prelim game appearance, is looking to take another step forward this spring.

“We’re returning two-thirds of our attack,” Gardiner head coach K.C. Johnson said. “We’re still young… Offensively, I think we’re going to be pretty stout. We’re going to a new system, seeing the kids grow (in that).”

The Tigers return senior Cody Dingwell, a KVAC Small School first-team selection last season. Johnson said Dingwell will move from attack to midfield. Gardiner also returns Brayden Elliott and Connor Cote.

Nathan Dillman of Oak Hill/Monmouth/Lisbon/St. Dom’s fires a shot over Parker Douin of Maranacook/Winthrop/Spruce Mountain during a game last season in Wales. Dillman scored on the play. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Multiple coaches are taking over in the Class C boys ranks. Longtime central Maine coach Daniel Brannigan is the new head coach for Maranacook/Winthrop this spring. Brannigan, who recently served as an assistant under Sheridan at Messalonskee, has experience at both the high school and college levels, previously working as an assistant at Thomas College, along with a successful stint as head coach at Oak Hill, where he went 38-22 from 2012-2015.

“The community at Maranacook is unreal,” Brannigan said. “The kids, the buy-in, the parents and the support. It’s just a fun community to be a part of… I honestly think I’m here to stay for a long time. There’s so much support, athletically, academically. I’m honestly having the time of my life.”


Brannigan takes over a Hawks program that went 8-7 last year, reaching the Class C quarterfinals. The Hawks return nearly its entire starting lineup, including Owen Lyons, a KVAC Small School all-star selection last year, and Bennett Ross, one of the Hawks’ leading scorers last year.

“Athletically, I think we match up with pretty much anybody,” Brannigan said. “I think our biggest issue may be (goaltending), but I think we’ll get it figured out. Thankfully, I have a very veteran defense.”

David Snyder takes over the Oak Hill boys program. The Raiders had a standout season last year with a 9-7 record, reaching the Class C semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Waynflete.

“I’m really excited this year, we have a nice balance,” said Snyder about his program, which includes players from Monmouth Academy, Saint Dominic Academy and Lisbon High School. “We have a couple of good seniors leading the team this year. We have a lot of talented juniors and a couple of talented sophomores. I have a pretty good feeling we’re going to have a good season this year.”

Among Oak Hill’s returners are midfielder Lucas Bergeron and senior attack Adam Hinkley.

Cony’s Maci Freeman looks for a teammate to pass the ball to while flanked my Lewiston’s Caitlin D’Andrea and Savannah Connor-Schade during a girls lacrosse game last season in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The Cony girls are coming off their best regular season in program history, ending last year with a 13-3 mark. The Rams had five players named as KVAC Small School all-stars. While Cony graduated seven players, multiple standouts return, including Maci Freeman — the team’s lone senior — who scored 31 goals last season. Cony also returns junior Abby Morrill, who led the team in goals (36), assists (13), draw controls (49) and ground balls (78).


“We’re young,” Cony head coach Gretchen Livingston said. “The good news is, among that returning group, we have Maci Freeman and Abby Morrill, two great athletes who have had success in the fall and the winter.”

While the Rams are young, Livingston is happy with the athleticism on the roster.

“I’m excited to have athletes who are excited and eager to learn and are just excited about playing,” said Livingston, who was named KVAC coach of the year last season. “I think once we’re outside, they’re going to be ready to break out and show us what they can do and it’ll be really exciting to watch that.”

Cony’s rival, Messalonskee, is going through a large transitional phase. The Eagles have a new head coach in Cora Clukey, who was previously the head coach at Winslow, before it became a co-op program with Lawrence this spring. The Eagles have been the area’s most consistent and successful program for years, with a record of 132-47 since 2011. But on top of its coaching change this spring, Messalonskee is also dealing with a major roster change, as several standouts have graduated, including KVAC A Player of the Year Julia Wade.

“We have a mix (of youth and experience),” Clukey said. “Some of our juniors and seniors, this is only their second year playing, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that. Our 12 freshmen, their experience varies as well, but you have some really talented ones who played in our middle school feeder program. I think it’s a great group of girls.”

After a 6-8 season last year, Gardiner is looking to take a step forward this season. Head coach Jessica Prince has been happy with the team’s progression heading into the season. Senior Nora Knowlton will be counted on as one of the leaders of the defense.

“The girls are feeling excited, which is always a really good thing to feed off of,” Prince said. “There’s been a whole bunch of gym time (due to the weather), so we’re still trying to figure it out as it goes. Going in, we thought it was going to be more of a rebuilding year than it was looking like. It looks like there’s a lot of girls coming in that are ready to go. I think it’s going to be a great season.”

In Class C, Maranacook/Winthrop will be looking to build on and improve from a 9-5 season last year, which at one point included a six-game winning streak.

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